Endowments

 

Land-Grab Universities” (April 2020) called for reconciliation efforts at schools that have endowments derived in part from the taking of Native American lands in the 19th century. South Dakota State University has dedicated around $636,000 in annual endowment income from these lands to programs and support for Native students. If all 52 universities in your investigation were to do the same, approximately $22 million would be available annually for these kinds of programs, based on a 4.4% average payout on a combined total of $495 million, the estimated inflation-adjusted present value of their endowments.

Cornell University, with the largest endowment, would invest $4 million a year in Native programs. The next largest, Montana State University, would pony up $1.6 million. And the University of California system, where I work, would contribute $597,051. Oregon State University, near the median, would spend $184,019.

I do not know whether other universities are spending anywhere near what these endowments earn, like South Dakota State is doing. But users can easily add a column to the database that High Country News has made public to calculate a 4.4% payout (which the Congressional Research Service recently found to be the average university endowment payout) based on the estimated present value of these endowments. That number could indeed be an interesting tool for further research, and — hopefully — potentially productive discussions with these universities.

—Jon Christensen, via email

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